Monday, October 30, 2006

House of Cards

Toby's wish has finally come true. Baseball is over for the year. That won't stop me from still speaking incessantly about it however. The Cardinals overcame extremely long odds and beat the Tigers in the World Series. And since I was probably the only person outside of Missouri to predict a Cardinals win, I have to give myself a big pat on the back. Clearly I know more about baseball than anyone else. Or maybe that was just lucky guess based on absolutely nothing. Either way, I'm taking credit for that one.

So what have learned from this years postseason? Pitching still wins in the playoffs. But playoff pitching doesn't necessarily have anything to do with pitching during the regular season. The Cardinals came into this years playoffs with one of the worst staffs in the National League. If not for the Cy Young type year that Chris Carpenter put together, they would have indeed had the worst staff in the National League. Only a desperate team, with a terrible rotation picks up the likes of Jeff Weaver and immediately inserts him into the starting rotation. Five out of the seven pitchers who started more than 13 games for the Cardinals this year had an ERA over 5.00! Only Carpenter had an ERA under 4.00. That is not exactly the blueprint for that staff that will lead you to a World Series championship. And yet, that is exactly what happened. It just goes to show you that the playoffs are a crapshoot to some extent. The key thing is to make it in. Once you get there, practically anything can happen. If there was seeding before this years playoffs began, I'm fairly sure that both the Tigers and Cardinals would have been seeded last in their respective leagues. The Cardinals played below .500 after April and the Tigers played below .500 after the all-star break. It was pretty clear that they were playing the worst baseball among the eight teams in the tournament and yet they made it to the end. That's baseball for you.

So will the Cardinals repeat next year? It's one the safest bets in sports that the winner of the World Series will not only not repeat, but they won't even make it back to the World Series. The last repeat winner was the NY Yankees in '99-'00. And the last team to make back to back appearances was the Yankees in '00-'01. Since the Yankees ended their run of four straight appearances, we have had two new oponents and a new World Series champion every year . I'm pretty sure that trend will continue. As I said earlier, the Cardinals pitching is an absolute mess. They managed to win 83 games this year, but I'm not sure that they will even match that total unless the pitching staff is completely overhauled. I'm not sure that there's enough pitching available to make that happen. If they have Jeff Weaver as their number 3 starter, then they are finished. The Astros, Brewers and Cincinnati will all make life much more difficult for the Cardinals next year. If I were picking that division for 2007, at this point I would have no choice but to pick someone besides the Cardinals. The prospects for the Tigers are much better. They have a young pitching staff with great arms and and some decent hitters. An offseason tweak or two could find them knocking on the door once again. They play in the toughest division in baseball however. Any slip up on their part and they will find themselves looking up at the White Sox and/or the Twins. I would wager a guess that the Tigers will be a better in '07 than the Cardinals.

Another season has come and gone and it always amazes me how unpredictable the game is. I'm not looking forward to the long cold winter ahead, but hopefully the memories of the season past will keep me warm during the bitter upcoming season. It really was another fabulous year of baseball. There were a whole host of things that made this year special. I don't think that I'll ever forget that dramatic win by the Dodgers against the Padres. The Yankees coming back from 10 runs down to beat the Rangers. The Boston Massacre II that finished off the Red Sox. The Tigers coming out of nowhere to dominate the first half of the season. Roger Clemens coming out of retirement to pitch for half a season. Ryan Howard challenging the 60 home run mark. The Frank Thomas resurrection in Oakland and a bunch of other spectacular games and plays from the just completed season. So while it's going to be a few months before we get anymore late inning comebacks or tape measure home runs, I'm just happy that I got to experience another fantastic year. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Ain't baseball grand!



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